The United States will temporarily shut down its embassies and consulates around the world Sunday -- including those in Iraq, Afghanistan and Egypt -- as a precautionary measure over terror-related concerns, State Department officials said.
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf did not say how long the international installations would stay closed -- only that the decision was taken “out of an abundance of caution and care for our employees and others who may be visiting.” Officials would not describe the nature of the threat.
Sunday is a normal workday in many Arab and Middle Eastern countries, meaning that is where the closures will have an impact. Embassies in Europe and Latin America would be shuttered that day anyway.
“We have instructed all U.S. embassies and consulates that would have normally been open on Sunday to suspend operations, specifically on August 4,” a senior State Department official said Thursday night. “It is possible we may have additional days of closing as well.”
Other U.S. officials said the threat was specifically in the Muslim world.
The issue of security abroad has been prominent since the attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, and a string of demonstrations on other U.S. embassies in the Middle East and North Africa.
On Thursday, measures to beef up security at U.S. embassies were passed out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The bill is in response to the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, where Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed.
The Senate bill creates a training center for diplomatic security personnel.
Separately, the House Foreign Affairs Committee authorized full security funding for diplomatic missions -- despite recommending a nine percent cut overall for State Department operations.
The House and Senate have already approved spending bills that cover embassy security. But their budgets differ markedly in other areas.